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November 18, 1979 - Image 13

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The Michigan Daily, 1979-11-18
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Page 6-Sunday, November 18, 1979-The Michigan Daily

The Michigan Daily-Sunday, P

Books
Mailer on Gilmore:
An American nightmare

Leashing runaway pl

By Eric Zorn

into their new house in Dexter last April,
they were excited about the coming
years. They looked forward to raising
their three sons in their long-dreamt-of country home.
Their daughter was getting married in the fall, and
they were awaiting the years when she would be star-
ting her own family in the area.
But rumors of a massive lay-dff started flying at
Sycor, Inc., the Ann Arbor computer firm where Wen-
sel worked as a production supervisor. In July the
newspapers came out with reports that 600 employees
would be laid off by next March. And in September, the
month of his daughter's wedding, Wensel learned from
the company that his job would end Feb. 28,1980.
Sycor was offering its salaried workers a bonus if
they stayed until their lay-off date, and at first Wensel
planned to remain with the company until February.
But he grew anxious about being able to find another
job close by and decided to start looking right away.
"I'm a very nervous type, I guess," he says. "The
more I thought about it, the more difficult it became
for me to stick it out. I found trouble trying to sleep at

The jobs of600 Sycor
employees are in limbo
By Sara Anspach
largest employers, are just starting to form groups of
concerned citizens to help ease the pain of a plant
closing, and governments, too, are beginning to tussle
with the problem of workers who are left behind.
Reports that Sycor officials were planning to lay off
at least 600 employees took Ann Arbor by surprise last
July. From its formation 11 years ago, Sycor had
grown to become the city's largest private employer.
Computer terminal systems were big business during
the seventies and Sycor's growing profits had meant
more and more jobs for the city. In 1976, a grateful Ann

THE EXECUTIONER'S SONG
By Norman Mailer
Little, Brown & Co.,
$16.95, 1,056 pp.
HE LIFE STORY of Gary Gil-
more is not the tragedy of a
man's death in front of the firing
squad, but it is the tragedy of life itself.
The Executioner's Song, a vivid;
enormous account of the life of the
celebrated killer who insisted upon his
own execution, attempts not so much to
come to terms with this tragedy as to
present the details for inspection. There
is no message, no central philosophical
point to be ferreted out.
The book tells a true story-a story
that fascinated the country-and the
plain facts are all that exist. They are
enough. The staggering load of infor-
mation is heaped on for more than 1,000
pages, broadening the story and filling
it out, until the reader is left to put the
truth together as he or she wills.
Norman Mailer does not go beyond
unadorned presentation to think for the
reader. The reader's labor is like the
labor of being alive-that is, to fit
together the pieces and try, try, try to
make some sense out of senselessness.
This extended, awesome salute to the
labors of mankind is only as easy to take
as pain, loneliness, anger, frustration,
and despair. It is the sound of the howl-
ing Western wind cutting through the
windowpanes of one-story houses in
narrow, dirty towns; it taps the tales
and tears of men, women, and children
living in a world they cannot under-
stand.
The story rings in the voices of those
who lived through it. The language
Mailer uses to tell his tale is as varied,
as the characters who pass through the
book, from lawyers to car dealers.
Gilmore's story is held together by a
simple, hard narrative that echoes the
straightforward, uneducated language
of the principals. It reads like the great
White Trash epic of the Southwest until,
due to the sheer weight of detail, the
characters are fleshed out and begin to
take on a fascinating yet very or-
dinary depth. There are no heroes,
because the reality offered no heroes.
Convicted felon Gary Gilmore, 35,
was paroled from prison in May, 1976,
and set up with relatives and friends in
Spanish Fork, Utah, near Provo.
Having spent 90 per cent of his adult life
behind bars, he was pitifully
inadequate adjusting to the demands of
freedom. Even as we are drawn to pity
him, he repulses us with his cheating,
vulgar behavior and huge disregard for
the feelings of others.
As he sinks into his stormy love affair
with young Nicole Baker, the truth
about Gilmore becomes agonizing:
Though he is a sensitive and intelligent
man, has never grown up, and is gover-
ned by monstrous passions. Hatred and
Eric Zorn is co-editor of tIle Daily
arts.pqge. .

pity are emotions too simple for
Gilmore to feel. He requires understan-
ding, but is it possible to give it to him?
Can most of us understand the twisting,
ripping confusion and anger tearing at
a man who is unprepared to handle a
civilized life?
The reader becomes as lost as
everyone else in the book, for there is no
way in and no way out. There is no one
to blame for the vulgar and cheating
behavior of a character we want very
much to like. He beats and abuses the
only person who offers him love, and
when she leaves him, murders others to
avoid murdering her.
She asks him, "Are you the Devil?"
For if the burning, brutal evil in
Gilmore wasn't sent straight from Hell,
from where did it come? Raised
primarily by his mother, he was in
trouble early and often. His budding
malevolence was evidently fostered by
reform school and the prison of his
early days. Once started down that
road, there was no turning back.
He killed two men in two nights,
drilling bullets point blank into their
heads with an automatic pistol, then
robbing them. The image burns in the.
reader's mind-the young Mormon
service station attendant lying face
down in a pool of his own blood on the
restroom floor while Gilmore checks in-
to a motel with his girlfriend's younger
sister.
The rules were different for Gilmore.
Life and death were as muddled for him
as everything else, and his over-
whelming, frustrated selfishness kept
his scope down to a minimum. Of
course he was captured: He didn't
care enough to cover his tracks.
Judgment seems senseless in the face
of the enormous horror of the fact:
These murders were inevitable and, to
an extent, a necessary fact of
Gilmore's life. He fought the only way
he knew.
In fact, the entire Gilmore saga is a
study in the hopeless knot of right and
wrong. There are more and more
characters added to the bill until the
book swells with faces and lives, each
with their own histories, opinions, and
ways of getting by. There is a
fascinating richness to the depth of this
account, a richness that serves to
enlight as well as to confuse. The more
that is known about the life of Gary
Gilmore and the events surrounding his
execution, the less any clear truth
comes out.
Sentenced to death, Gilmore chose
not to contest the order. "We all die, it
ain't no big deal," he said. At every
turn he was fought by civil libertarians
and flooded with unseemly, cheap
publicity. All he wanted, he said, was to
die with dignity and rbt face the years
of prisons spreading endlessly in front
of him.
The desperate love between Gilmore
and Nicole Baker looms over the ac-
count,.at opce giving the.killer a reasn..
to live, nd a e al to diet for.,etried

twice to kill himself. He convinced
Baker to try the same, and his reasons
were twofold: To ensure that they
would be together in death, and to
prevent Baker from having sex with
other men. Gilmore was that selfish.
Some thought Gilmore should die,
and others insisted he must be saved.
Mailer carefully outlines the legal
struggle to effect the first execution in
the United States. in more than nine
years, and that tangle becomes thicker
and thicker.
T IS CLEAR that nothing is clear.
The Executioner's Song would be
a much easier book if it made
some choices for us, but it does
not. As the book inexorably leads up to
the time of Gilmore's execution, the
conflicts that the characters cannot
resolve also shatter the reader. The
man wanted to die, but we know him too
well to want to see him shot. The
polemic screams in our heads: He is a
lividly vengeful, contemptuous killer
with no promise of rehabilitation, but
he is a man who loves and labors and
fights, in his way, that which we all
fight; no matter how you feel about
capital punishment, part of you wants
Gilmore to die just as part of you wants
him to live.
The issue becomes too large and too
close. We know too much to know
anything at all, demonstrating, if
nothing else, that ignorance sometimes
is bliss. How can we rejoice and agonize
at once when the bullets rip Gilmore's
heart to shreds?
The tragedy has not been Gary
Gilmore; nor has it been Nicole Baker.
The tragedy is that there really are no

answers, though everyone searches
deeper and deeper for them.
And what good, you ask, is a huge
book that boasts as its only truth the
rather unpleasant notion that.life is too
complex and wicked for truths? It is
painful and destructive, but, then
again, it is real. The Executioner's
Song must be heard, for it is deep, rich,
and overall, an intensely human cry.
The story is not about Gary Gilmore
any more than Moby Dick is about a
whale. It is about people fighting again-
st life because they are unable to go
with it. It is about survival just as much
as it is about death, and the tragic,
blind search for the light of truth as the
dawn approaches when Gary Gilmore
is to die.
The death of Gary Gilmore was
neither an end nor a beginning. It was
just another thing that happened. It
didn't protect us or save us or answer
any of our questions.
For now, in the end, when Gilmore's
ashes are scattered over Spanish Fork,
Utah, there are thousands of young men
like him everywhere. To learn what
truth there is about this tragic life
brings us a little closer to another
horrible, horrible truth: We all of us
share, in some way, in what was Gary
Gilmore, and we are no better or worse.
Only luckier.

proximately 600 of the
off and about 100 man
when the plant was con'
tion facility.
Plant closings or par
unusual. In fact, the nu
to close, relocate, or r
creasing, especially in
Mid-Atlantic states, w
high. Often, a company
where the climate is w
where special tax incen
NTSC spokesman Bri
where the company p
manufacturing jobs, bu
be sent to plants in
Island, and Greensb4
workers who have been
that the pay scale there
bor's competitive pay s
Other factors also m
cold at times. Taxes
plants have to contenc
wages paid by the aut
wages are high withir
company finds that m
by the wages, at nearby
"People, when they h
on the waiting lists at t
they get called there, t
When we lost people lik
severe problem," says
"we" and "us" when
ployer.
Whatever the reason
who feels the brunt of
panies often make m
giving them scant nol
deliberately misleading
job as long as possible.
Sycor employees say
off was when it came c
Morale plummeted ne
workers congregated i
the only source of infor
after Labor Day that t
the coming lay-offs a
employees, who make i
be laid-off, were told w
HE APPROX
still have no
"Nobody kno
worst part,
Bruce Kennedy. "Most
off today so they could
mal fashion."
"People's incentiv
production tester Sara]
for the ax to fall. It's ki
Although lay-offs we
month, no one at Sycor
estimate that over 100
that the company is si
temporaries. "If the
with the way people a
cold, short of the notice
pany has nobody to bla
sel. "They flat refused
the employees, to tell t
ner what they're going
do it."
Many union employ
their jobs, waiting to se
has been laid off yet,
there won't be a lay-off
the rest of them," say
tion employee who h
three years.
Kennedy speculates
out early so that peol
and the company woi
ployment benefits. In a
stay in his job as long a
Other rumors hin
operation will be
especially, fear this s
tments have already le
stable.

sycor

(Continued from Page 3)
NRSC spokesman Murphy discredited
the numerous stories, saying, "There
are always going to be rumors." He
claims the company still plans to lay off
600 employees, but that "there is no
schedule" for when they will be let go.
The plight of the victim of plant
closings-the unemployed
worker-didn't interest too may people
until recently. "There hasn't been, in
the past, much concern for the,
workers," says Louis Ferman, co-
director for research at the Univer-
sity's Institute of Labor and Industrial
Relations. Ferman has been studying
the effects of plant closings on workers
for the past 25 years, and has found that
the emotional and physiological effects
of unemployment can be as severe as
the economic consequences.
"The'unemployed lay themselves
open to all kinds of ailments," says
Ferman. Lifelong stress, strokes, and
heart attacks can follow a job loss.
Depression and anxiety are common
symptoms. And occasionally, the reac-
tion is even more severe: Following the.
1973 closing of a Detroit bearing plant,
eigbtworkers-committed suicide..,
It is the.older, workerwho is-hit 'har-.

dest by a plant closing. Says Ferman,
"When you're 40 in our society, you are
considered very old." Older workers
discover that the years of experience
with their former employer mean little
when competing with young, healthy
workers in tight job markets.
In the aftermath of a plant closing a
"ripple effect" often spreads though
the community. A single lay-off of 600
Sycor workers would not have a large
effect on Ann Arbor's economy, but
when the closing plant is the town's
major employer, the results can be
drastic. When Youngstown Sheet and
Tube closed in Youngstown, Ohio, 5,000
workers lost their jobs immediately. A
recent study indicates that more than
11,000 additional jobs in the surroun-
ding area were lost when the burden of
5,000 unemployed workers fell upon the
community.-
Cities are now starting to explore
what can be done to make life easier on
both the workers and the rest of the
community during a plant closing. And
both the federal government and in-
dividual state governments are con-
sidering legislation which require a
See SYCOR, Page 8 ti

1
l
i
t
i
l
i

'The more I thought about it, the more difficult it
became for me to stick it out. Ifound trouble trying to
sleep at night, worrying about what's going to happen
in February...
night, worrying about what's going to happen in Arbor granted Sycor a $30,000-a-year, 12-year tax
February, and not wanting to have to relocate." break for providing the city with entry-level manufac-
Wensel was lucky. He received two job offers from turing jobs.
nearby companies, quit his job with Sycor, and now There was some fear for Ann Arbor jobs in May,
works as an engineer with Control-O-Mation in Dexter. 1978, however, when Montreal's Northern Telecom
Unlike the probable fate of many of his former co- Ltd.-North America's second largest telecom-
workers, he won't have to try to pay this winter's bills munications firm-purchased Sycor. The company set
with unemployment checks, and he won't be forced to up a parent firm, Northern Telecoms System Corp.
move his family from the home it loves in order to find (NTSC), in Minneapolis and told Ann Arbor residents
a decent job. not to worry. If anything, the change would mean
Since 1966 over one million workers have lost their more, not less, jobs for the city. And in April, 1979, NT-
jobs after their corporate employers decided it would SC officials reaffirmed their commitment to the city
be more profitable to produce somewhere else. Those during the dediction of their new research and
who have invested a large part of their lives with a firm development facility. Gov. William Milliken attended
find themselves cut off with short notice, and seeking the ceremony and praised the company for its con-
another job in a market where seniority at a previous tinued loyalty to Ann Arbor.
job means next to nothing. Of the workers who do find Several months later, Milliken met with company of-
jobs after a plant closing, about half earn less money ficials again. But this time it was to try to persuade the
and have a lower status than before. firm with a "commitment" to Ann Arbor not to take 600
It's a paradox that the same free enterprise system jobs from Michigan's ailing economy.
which encourages industrial growth and brings jobs to NTSC officials announced in July that they had com-
cities also encourages the quick exit of employers pleted a rationalization study" showing Ann Arbor
when more profitable locations are found. Com- was not the most efficient place to produce computer
munities, often bewildered by the exodus of their terminal systems. They told local newspapers they
would be phasing out the major portion of the manufac-
Sara Anspach covers University turing function, leaving intact the other parts: Field
research for the Daily, services, data center, and research functions. Ap-

tAo

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